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UFC Vegas 22 preview, ‘Brunson vs Holland’ predictions

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Longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight veteran Derek Brunson will once again look to derail a 185-pound hype train when the promotion sends him into battle against surging prospect Kevin Holland in the UFC Vegas 22 main event tomorrow night (Sat., March 20, 2021) inside APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, airing on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN+.

In the UFC Vegas 22 co-main event, lightweight bruiser Gregor Gillespie makes his return to mixed martial arts (MMA) for the first time since getting floored by Kevin Lee. Hoping to unwrap “The Gift” is New Zealand standout Brad “Quake” Riddell, winner of six straight.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the UFC Vegas 22 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Brunson vs. Holland” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work ...

185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland

Derek Brunson

Record: 21-7 | Age: 37 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.77 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.95 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 3.02 (31% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Edmen Shahbazyan

Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland

Record: 21-5 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -170
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 81” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.74 | Striking accuracy: 57%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.77 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 1.19 (42% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 52%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Knockout win over Ronaldo Souza

Kevin Holland has been getting a lot of hype over the last two years as the middleweight “Trailblazer” started racking up consecutive wins. Since graduating Dana White’s “Contender Series” in June 2018, Holland has won eight of 10 and four straight, putting him at the tip of the Top 10 rankings. That should give you an idea of how ridiculous the UFC rankings have gotten, since Darren Till somehow earned the No. 4 spot by losing three of his last four and holding only one victory at 185 pounds, a split decision over the hot-and-cold Kelvin Gastelum. Holland’s biggest win to date came against veteran contender Ronaldo Souza, and I think it’s fair to say that beating “Jacare” — who turned 41 back in December — is no longer something to brag about. What Holland can brag about is the Undertaker sit-up knockout against the Brazilian. I would imagine that sent a message to the rest of the middleweight field because Holland, who boasts 12 knockouts and five submissions, can win the fight wherever it goes.

Brunson doesn’t have as many submissions as his fellow headliner but as we saw against the heavily-touted Edmen Shahbazyan, he's not going to just roll over and play dead because the promotion wants him to. Brunson, a three-time Division II All-American wrestler, is now the winner of three straight having alsotaken out Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch along the way. I’m not sure Holland can throw anything at Brunson that he hasn’t already seen against more established fighters. Uriah Hall had speed and Sam Alvey had power but Brunson finished them both. Working against him is the fact that he’s nearly a decade older than Holland and at some point, Father Time humbles us all. Based on what I saw against Shahbazyan, and perhaps some overconfidence on the part of Holland, I’m not sure that time has come just yet. Don’t be surprised to see Brunson survive an early scare, only to find his rhythm and plow through “Trailblazer” for a sweep on the judges’ scorecards.

Prediction: Brunson def. Holland by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell

Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie

Record: 13-1 | Age: 33 | Betting line: -250
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.58 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.14 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 7.02 (47% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 15 | Last fight: Knockout loss to Kevin Lee

Brad “Quake” Riddell

Record: 9-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +210
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.36 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.62 | Striking Defense: 53%
Takedown Average: 1.00 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Alex da Silva Coelho

Many fighters will tell you that losing a championship or being waxed on the main stage can be oddly liberating. The pressure is gone and there’s nowhere to go but up. Gregor Gillespie expressed similar sentiments this week in what marks his first UFC fight since getting flatlined by Kevin Lee at UFC 244. The loss sent him tumbling down the rankings to No. 15 and all the equity he built up since crossing over from Ring of Combat back in summer 2016, at least in terms of his title aspirations, has long since expired. This business has a “what have you done for me lately” approach to superstars and “The Gift” is running out of time at age 34. Fortunately his skill set, which has resulted in six knockouts and five submissions, hasn't changed simply because he went south against “The Motown Phenom,” but I would reckon Gillespie won’t be so careless with his defense moving forward.

Brad Riddell is part of the City Kickboxing invasion from New Zealand, alongside Israel Adesanya and Kai Kara France, among others. There were high expectations for “Quake” after running the table at Glory of Heroes and to date he’s been ... “fine.” It’s hard to knock a guy who kicks off his UFC career with three straight wins, but all three have come by way of decision (one of them split) against unranked competition. A win is a win, of course, but the last thing you want is to try to win a decision against an NCAA D-1 National Champion and four-time All-American wrestler. If Riddell plans to unwrap “The Gift,” he’s going to need some of that knockout power he displayed in the first half of his career — and hope that Gillespie makes the same mistake twice.

Prediction: Gillespie def. Riddell by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 22 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 22 fight card tomorrow night, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 22 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete “Brunson vs. Holland” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.